Booker, Blackburn Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Improve Maternal Health Outcomes for Pregnant Veterans

The DOULA Act would establish a pilot program to improve maternal health outcomes through doula support services

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bipartisan bill, Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs, or the DOULA Act, to establish a pilot program to encourage the use of doulas in the Veterans Health Administration to support pregnant veterans and improve maternal health outcomes.

A study in 2010 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom who experienced pregnancy were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as those who had not experienced a pregnancy, which can lead to many complications during childbirth.

This has led to an increasing number of doula organizations and veteran stakeholders coming together to advocate for the placement of doulas in the Veterans Health Administration as a support for pregnant veterans.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education found that “expectant mothers matched with a doula had better birth outcomes than did mothers who gave birth without involvement of a doula.”

“Maternal mortality in the United States is a public health crisis that demands urgent action,” said Senator Booker. “Providing increased access to doula care for veterans—especially those who are survivors of military sexual trauma or experiencing a mental disorder—is a proven, effective way to improve health outcomes for mothers and children and support our veterans.”

“Mental health resources must be readily available for our veterans, and pregnant veterans are no exception,” said Senator Blackburn. “The support of a doula during childbirth has proven to help women feel more at ease as their child comes into the world.“

Under the Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs, or the DOULA Act, the Department of Veteran Affairs would be required to measure the impact that doula support services have on pregnant veterans birth and mental health outcomes. The pilot program would allow for six Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN), three with the highest percentage of female veterans, and three with the lowest rate of female veterans, to participate and compare results regarding barriers to care. If done successfully, it will lower childbirth complications and incentivize veterans to receive VA care during and after their pregnancy.

The Delivering Optimally Urgent Labor Access for Veterans Affairs Act was borne out of conversations Senator Booker had with female veterans at a roundtable he hosted on Veterans Day in 2018.

Full text of the bill can be viewed here.